A pair of rescued Southern Sea Otters has made their way to the Georgia Aquarium after being found stranded near the California coastline. Mara, a female, is approximately eleven-weeks-old, and Gibson, a male, is approximately five-weeks-old. They will stay in a behind-the-scenes area of the Aquarium for the foreseeable future while they acclimate to their new home.
Mara was stranded at approximately one-week-old near Port San Luis in San Luis Obispo County, California on January 17, 2019. She was rescued, and efforts made to locate her mother were unsuccessful. After being cared for at another facility in the Golden State, she was deemed non-releasable by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the search for a permanent home began.
Georgia Aquarium was selected as Mara’s new home due to its ability to care for a young pup that requires round-the-clock care. The Aquarium staff was in California preparing Mara for her trip to Atlanta, when unfortunately, another pup stranded.
Gibson was found at approximately three-weeks-old on March 12 near the Carmel River in California where he was separated from his mother during a large storm. The response team tried to return him to his mother, who was visible and vocalizing, but the storm surge made it near impossible. After those attempts were unsuccessful, the only option for him was euthanasia. Given the Aquarium’s expertise and already planned transport back to Atlanta with Mara, an emergency placement request was made so that Gibson would call Georgia Aquarium home, too.
If a permanent home had not been available for either of these pups, they would have been euthanized.
To get the pups back to Atlanta as quickly and with as little stress as possible, the animal care and veterinary staff flew them directly from Monterey, California to Atlanta on a private jet. With the otters’ health and wellbeing in mind, the jet was cooled to approximately 60-65 degrees Fahrenheit and supplied with plenty of ice to keep these cold-weather mammals cool.
Once they arrived in Atlanta, they were put into a behind-the-scenes area where they will remain while they are under 24-hour watch and care. Mara is currently eating solid fish and swimming on her own, but Gibson, the younger of the two, is still being bottle-fed.
It's important for both of them to learn how to be a Sea Otter, grow, and adjust to their new environment before going on exhibit in the Cold Water Quest gallery with the other resident Sea Otters: Brighton, Bixby, and Cruz.